Saturday, 30 May 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

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SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

March 3, 2015 - Regular reporting on the physical and mental health of people incarcerated on Rikers Island and the provision of care prisoners there receive will take New York City a step closer toward addressing the violence that plagues the jail, according to testimony to be delivered today before the New York City Council.

“The systemic failure to address the health care needs of those incarcerated on Rikers Island – a population challenged by mental health and medical issues so severe that they shouldn’t be incarcerated in the first place – exacerbates the culture of brutality that plagues Rikers Island,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “That culture itself is inexcusable and has to be met head on, but at the same time it must be acknowledged that corrections officers are simply not prepared or trained to deal with the level of suffering they are forced to confront at Rikers. Defining the magnitude of the problem will be a crucial first step toward ending it.”

Last weekend, We Charge Genocide and The Chicago Light Brigade hosted the first weekend-long training installment of The Radical Education Project. The idea behind the effort is simple: young activists should to be given the tools they need to be tactical educators in their communities. From screen printing to prop making and action planning, a blossoming movement requires the de-consolidation of skill sets. A group of activists of color here in Chicago have long had a vision for building a network that could aid in the proliferation of those skill sets in our communities, but until recent months, that vision had never found a full expression. Most of us who hoped to see it happen were steadily juggling organizing work for multiple organizations, trying to hold down our day jobs, and of course, attempting to hold onto that strange semblance of a personal life that organizers occasionally experience.

But in recent months, something changed. I found myself in the streets, week after week, marching alongside young people who were developing actions and building community, and who were eager to broaden their skills. The long discussed vision of a skill building network began to seem pragmatic in a very immediate way. Still, the thought of developing that infrastructure locally, on top of our other responsibilities, seemed a bit daunting.

During a recent trip to Capitol Hill, members of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability (NCLEOJ) were acknowledged on the floor of the House Committee on the Judiciary by Chairman Sensenbrenner and Rep Jackson Lewis for their service.  NCLEOJ later met with Rep Sheila Jackson Lewis, co-sponsor of the "Building Bridges and Transforming Resentment and Unfairness to Support and Trust for Municipal Law Enforcement" or "Build Trust Act".

This multi-cultural group of retired and former police officers  met with Rep Jackson Lee of Texas,  a member of the House Judiciary Committee,  to share and discuss their varied personal experiences with regard to institutionalized racism and the  state sponsored murders of all Americans; placing particular emphasis on the black and brown communities.

Mar 02

"Right-to-Work" Will Kill Workers

By Will Kramer, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On Wednesday, February 25, the Wisconsin Senate passed a so-called "right-to-work" bill, which will almost certainly be approved by the Republican-dominated state Assembly next week and signed by Governor Scott Walker. As debate began, I was arrested and dragged away by at least six police officers along with my brother. We were standing in a hallway outside the Senate chamber; the police deemed that we as Wisconsin citizens had no right to be there, in our own house of government. I was processed and held at the county jail, and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is a class A misdemeanor with maximum consequences of up to nine months in prison and $10,000 in financial penalties.

This is not my story. I am not now a union member and never have been. But because my own legislators refused to hear my voice, along with the voices of so many other Wisconsinites on this important legislation, I choose to speak. This is my testimony.

Mar 02

Obamacare at Age Five: Access to Care

By John Geyman, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Now that Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) is just turning five years since its enactment in 2010, it is time to assess its progress and shortfalls. This is the first of three posts that will deal with its experience toward its major goals - expanding access to care, cutting costs and making care more affordable, and improving the quality of care. A fourth post will follow that deals with the takeaway lessons from this five-year experience. 

The initial goal of the ACA was to extend health insurance to 32 million more people by 2019, about one-half of that number through expansion of Medicaid. Online insurance exchanges were to be set up by states or the federal government to allow people to comparison shop for new coverage. Most uninsured with incomes above 138 percent of federal poverty level (FPL) would be required to purchase insurance or face penalties. In order to help them to afford new coverage, those with incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the FPL ($32,913 to $95,400 for a family of four) would receive federal subsidies. New requirements were to be established for insurers, including prohibiting them from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, requiring them to cover 10 categories of defined benefits, requiring them to cover at least 60 percent of health care costs (actuarial value of the bronze plan, leaving patients responsible for the remaining 40 percent of costs), requiring insurers to accept every individual and employer that applies for coverage, and others.

British human rights lawyer Gordon Bennett has issued a damning legal analysis of the negative impacts of wildlife law enforcement on tribal peoples in Botswana, Cameroon and India during a symposium organized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and others on "wildlife crime" on Friday.

Mr Bennett presented a paper which argues that wildlife law enforcement almost always harms tribal communities because the wrong laws are being enforced by the wrong people against the wrong people - with examples from Botswana, Cameroon and India.

Rodney Reed sits on death row in Texas, facing an execution date of March 5 for a murder that even the victim's family thinks he didn't commit. It would take a simple DNA test to prove his innocence - and you can force the Governor of Texas to make that happen.

Mar 02

ISIS Derangement Syndrome

By David Swanson, World Beyond War | Op-Ed

Here's Time Magazine's David von Drehle: "The greatest threat that ISIS poses -- even to the poor souls living under ISIS rule -- is the unintended damage that might follow from the effort to eradicate the group. . . . As dangerous as it is to have a terrorist kingdom in the middle of the world's geopolitical tinderbox, ousting ISIS will be every bit as dangerous."

Drehle goes from there immediately into the debate over whether U.S. troops or local troops should do the job. His article is followed by Max Boot arguing for U.S. ground troops and Karl Vick arguing for U.S. bombing with local ground troops. All three writers seem to be aware that ISIS wanted U.S. bombing and wants U.S. ground troops even more, that ISIS recruitment climbs in response to U.S. military action. All three can't help but be aware that terrorist kingdoms like Saudi Arabia already exist in the region with the blessing of the U.S. government (and of magazine writers who seek to please the U.S. government). All three are fairly condescending toward local troops, eager to (somehow) get Sunnis to attack Sunnis, and wary of allowing Iranian "death squads" to get involved in the, you know, mass killing they are proposing.

New "ag-gag" laws are criminalizing the filming of animal abuse on factory farms, which are the source of 99 percent of animal meat. Do they have the right to keep their animal cruelty secret, or do consumers have the right to know?

Lawyers for a US citizen disappeared in Yemen are calling on the Houthi government to confirm his well-being and end his enforced disappearance, on the day that marks a year since he was last seen.
 
Sharif Mobley, a father of two from New Jersey, was last seen by legal representatives from international human rights organisation Reprieve on 27 February 2014, as he awaited trial at Sana’a’s central prison. When they returned three weeks later, Reprieve staff were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley’s lawyers to access him have since failed.

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

March 3, 2015 - Regular reporting on the physical and mental health of people incarcerated on Rikers Island and the provision of care prisoners there receive will take New York City a step closer toward addressing the violence that plagues the jail, according to testimony to be delivered today before the New York City Council.

“The systemic failure to address the health care needs of those incarcerated on Rikers Island – a population challenged by mental health and medical issues so severe that they shouldn’t be incarcerated in the first place – exacerbates the culture of brutality that plagues Rikers Island,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “That culture itself is inexcusable and has to be met head on, but at the same time it must be acknowledged that corrections officers are simply not prepared or trained to deal with the level of suffering they are forced to confront at Rikers. Defining the magnitude of the problem will be a crucial first step toward ending it.”

Last weekend, We Charge Genocide and The Chicago Light Brigade hosted the first weekend-long training installment of The Radical Education Project. The idea behind the effort is simple: young activists should to be given the tools they need to be tactical educators in their communities. From screen printing to prop making and action planning, a blossoming movement requires the de-consolidation of skill sets. A group of activists of color here in Chicago have long had a vision for building a network that could aid in the proliferation of those skill sets in our communities, but until recent months, that vision had never found a full expression. Most of us who hoped to see it happen were steadily juggling organizing work for multiple organizations, trying to hold down our day jobs, and of course, attempting to hold onto that strange semblance of a personal life that organizers occasionally experience.

But in recent months, something changed. I found myself in the streets, week after week, marching alongside young people who were developing actions and building community, and who were eager to broaden their skills. The long discussed vision of a skill building network began to seem pragmatic in a very immediate way. Still, the thought of developing that infrastructure locally, on top of our other responsibilities, seemed a bit daunting.

During a recent trip to Capitol Hill, members of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability (NCLEOJ) were acknowledged on the floor of the House Committee on the Judiciary by Chairman Sensenbrenner and Rep Jackson Lewis for their service.  NCLEOJ later met with Rep Sheila Jackson Lewis, co-sponsor of the "Building Bridges and Transforming Resentment and Unfairness to Support and Trust for Municipal Law Enforcement" or "Build Trust Act".

This multi-cultural group of retired and former police officers  met with Rep Jackson Lee of Texas,  a member of the House Judiciary Committee,  to share and discuss their varied personal experiences with regard to institutionalized racism and the  state sponsored murders of all Americans; placing particular emphasis on the black and brown communities.

Mar 02

"Right-to-Work" Will Kill Workers

By Will Kramer, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On Wednesday, February 25, the Wisconsin Senate passed a so-called "right-to-work" bill, which will almost certainly be approved by the Republican-dominated state Assembly next week and signed by Governor Scott Walker. As debate began, I was arrested and dragged away by at least six police officers along with my brother. We were standing in a hallway outside the Senate chamber; the police deemed that we as Wisconsin citizens had no right to be there, in our own house of government. I was processed and held at the county jail, and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is a class A misdemeanor with maximum consequences of up to nine months in prison and $10,000 in financial penalties.

This is not my story. I am not now a union member and never have been. But because my own legislators refused to hear my voice, along with the voices of so many other Wisconsinites on this important legislation, I choose to speak. This is my testimony.

Mar 02

Obamacare at Age Five: Access to Care

By John Geyman, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Now that Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) is just turning five years since its enactment in 2010, it is time to assess its progress and shortfalls. This is the first of three posts that will deal with its experience toward its major goals - expanding access to care, cutting costs and making care more affordable, and improving the quality of care. A fourth post will follow that deals with the takeaway lessons from this five-year experience. 

The initial goal of the ACA was to extend health insurance to 32 million more people by 2019, about one-half of that number through expansion of Medicaid. Online insurance exchanges were to be set up by states or the federal government to allow people to comparison shop for new coverage. Most uninsured with incomes above 138 percent of federal poverty level (FPL) would be required to purchase insurance or face penalties. In order to help them to afford new coverage, those with incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the FPL ($32,913 to $95,400 for a family of four) would receive federal subsidies. New requirements were to be established for insurers, including prohibiting them from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, requiring them to cover 10 categories of defined benefits, requiring them to cover at least 60 percent of health care costs (actuarial value of the bronze plan, leaving patients responsible for the remaining 40 percent of costs), requiring insurers to accept every individual and employer that applies for coverage, and others.

British human rights lawyer Gordon Bennett has issued a damning legal analysis of the negative impacts of wildlife law enforcement on tribal peoples in Botswana, Cameroon and India during a symposium organized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and others on "wildlife crime" on Friday.

Mr Bennett presented a paper which argues that wildlife law enforcement almost always harms tribal communities because the wrong laws are being enforced by the wrong people against the wrong people - with examples from Botswana, Cameroon and India.

Rodney Reed sits on death row in Texas, facing an execution date of March 5 for a murder that even the victim's family thinks he didn't commit. It would take a simple DNA test to prove his innocence - and you can force the Governor of Texas to make that happen.

Mar 02

ISIS Derangement Syndrome

By David Swanson, World Beyond War | Op-Ed

Here's Time Magazine's David von Drehle: "The greatest threat that ISIS poses -- even to the poor souls living under ISIS rule -- is the unintended damage that might follow from the effort to eradicate the group. . . . As dangerous as it is to have a terrorist kingdom in the middle of the world's geopolitical tinderbox, ousting ISIS will be every bit as dangerous."

Drehle goes from there immediately into the debate over whether U.S. troops or local troops should do the job. His article is followed by Max Boot arguing for U.S. ground troops and Karl Vick arguing for U.S. bombing with local ground troops. All three writers seem to be aware that ISIS wanted U.S. bombing and wants U.S. ground troops even more, that ISIS recruitment climbs in response to U.S. military action. All three can't help but be aware that terrorist kingdoms like Saudi Arabia already exist in the region with the blessing of the U.S. government (and of magazine writers who seek to please the U.S. government). All three are fairly condescending toward local troops, eager to (somehow) get Sunnis to attack Sunnis, and wary of allowing Iranian "death squads" to get involved in the, you know, mass killing they are proposing.

New "ag-gag" laws are criminalizing the filming of animal abuse on factory farms, which are the source of 99 percent of animal meat. Do they have the right to keep their animal cruelty secret, or do consumers have the right to know?

Lawyers for a US citizen disappeared in Yemen are calling on the Houthi government to confirm his well-being and end his enforced disappearance, on the day that marks a year since he was last seen.
 
Sharif Mobley, a father of two from New Jersey, was last seen by legal representatives from international human rights organisation Reprieve on 27 February 2014, as he awaited trial at Sana’a’s central prison. When they returned three weeks later, Reprieve staff were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley’s lawyers to access him have since failed.